EMS Today 2019 Quick Take: Tech and the human touch to recruit and retain EMS providers

Technology is advancing exponentially and those EMS agencies who cannot adapt their employee engagement will be left behind in hiring and retaining millennials and members of Gen-Z


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NATIONAL HARBOR, Maryland — Ryan Jenkins, speaker and author of the book, “The Millennial Manual: The Complete How-To Guide to Manage, Develop and Engage Millennials at Work,” opened up EMS Today 2019 with a thought-provoking keynote addressing generational friction.

Jenkins has been featured in Forbes, Fast Company, Inc. and SUCCESS Magazine; and is a partner at 21Mill.com, a micro-learning training platform dedicated to helping millennials perform better at work.

Just when we’ve started to accept, embrace and even seek out millennials in the workplace, we are experiencing more generational friction than ever before. (Photo/Ryan Jenkins, courtesy of www.ryan-jenkins.com)
Just when we’ve started to accept, embrace and even seek out millennials in the workplace, we are experiencing more generational friction than ever before. (Photo/Ryan Jenkins, courtesy of www.ryan-jenkins.com)

Top quotes on understanding generations, from Gen-Z to millennials

Here are some of the quotes that stood out from Jenkins’ presentation.

“Millennials are the largest generation in the U.S. and, globally, that’s why you can’t go a single day without hearing the term ‘millennial.’”

“Generations are clues; they are not absolutes.”

“Emerging generations are a critical mass of change agents.”

 “A ‘this is always how we’ve done it’ mindset is a slippery slope to irrelevance.”

Top takeaways on engaging emerging generations in EMS

Jenkins broke down the way emerging generations have experienced the world, and how that has impacted how they seek, evaluate and grow in their employment. Here are the top takeaways from his presentation.

1. Generational conflicts are growing, not shrinking

Just when we’ve started to accept, embrace and even seek out millennials in the workplace, we are experiencing more generational friction than ever before, Jenkins noted, providing the following additional context:

(Photo/Ryan Jenkins, courtesy of www.ryan-jenkins.com)
(Photo/Ryan Jenkins, courtesy of www.ryan-jenkins.com)
  • The average lifespan in 1900 was 31. Today it’s 72 – a 41-year increase.
  • The first person to celebrate their 150th birthday has already been born. Imagine having a midlife crisis at age 75?
  • Generation Z is just now flooding into the workplace. But by 2025, three-quarters of workers globally will come from these emerging generations.

2. Ask Alexa: Technology adoption is shaping future generations

The greatest disruptor we’ve experienced in modern history is not fidget spinners – as Jenkins quipped to make sure he’d captured his audience’s attention – but the combination of technology and the internet. Having changed how everyone lives and works, placing technology and the internet on the shoulders of the largest, most technically-advanced generations are changing the world around us at an exponential rate.

In case audience members weren’t sure how they sat upon the generational spectrum, Jenkins encouraged listeners to think of an invention that’s changed the world. He then pointed out that while many in the traditional generations will picture a telephone, car, cotton gin or some other physical object, the newer generations think to the non-physical (e.g, software as a service, Netflix, social media).

While the adoption and update of physical inventions are, by their nature, limited, modern inventions have an exponential power to disrupt industries. Jenkins provided the following examples: 

  • Pokemon Go, the fastest growing app of all time, had 130 million downloads in the first month and passed $600 million in revenue in the first 90 days after its rollout.
  • In 2015, for the first time, 1 billion people (one out of seven people on planet Earth) used Facebook in one single day. Today, 2 billion people use it monthly.
  • Only 8 percent of U.S. college students don’t have access to Netflix, which only started streaming in 2007.
  • The smartphone – always within an arm’s reach – is 100,000 times smaller and 7,000,000,000 times more powerful than a computer in the early 1970s.
  • Measuring the average company tenure on the S&P, half will be replaced in just 10 years.

“That’s how fast things can move,” Jenkins said. “We can feel the ground moving beneath our feet.”

And these are not anomalies, he cautioned, but a preview. Emerging generations will demand change based on their experience. If you can’t remember a world prior to Uber or Lyft, then to you, it’s not an innovation, it’s a standard that sets your expectation for the world, he explained.

While older generations have adopted the world at our fingertips with smartphone grasped tightly, emerging generations are surrounded by artificial intelligence and have the world at the tip of their tongue. Just ask Alexa.

(Image/Courtesy of Ryan Jenkins)
(Image/Courtesy of Ryan Jenkins)

2. Balance tech with a personal touch to recruit/retain emerging generations

Members of the emerging generations are voice-ordering a product to be delivered within an hour. In the next year or two drones will regularly deliver everything from food to medical supplies. People are bypassing lines and checkout counters in favor of Amazon retail spaces that scan your cart and bill your account. They use virtual augmentation to try on sunglasses before adding them to their cart. They download an app that provides directions, room access and can order room service (today, in the very hotel hosting this event).

It’s no wonder they have different expectations when it comes to the workplace. “One out of every four Gen-Zers expects augmented/virtual reality at work. It’s been in their hands for 3-4 years,” Jenkins noted.

As individuals, we’re empowered consumers because we’re connected. Members of these emerging generations are empowered employees, and, yet, emerging generations are more disengaged with work than any other generation in history, Jenkins reported.

While tech is a must, it’s not enough.

Seventy-two percent of those in Gen-Z report they value face-to-face communication (though, that could mean through an app), supportive leadership and positive relationships. What do they want most? To work with people who enable their best work.

“Serve up the technology they expect, while delivering the human element they crave,” Jenkins advised. “If they’re not engaged, they’re a finger swipe away from going somewhere else.”

"And the competition is stiff," he continued. "It's never been easier or sexier to be an entrepreneur. We're not only competing for talent with other local organizations, we're competing with the ambition, resources, desire and ability of this generation to be entrepreneurs."

The keys to winning back the emerging generations lie in what they value:

  • Culture and values
  • Perks and benefits

They want to know about team perspectives and what it’s like to work there when they’re evaluating a potential employer, and they appreciate visual communication. Younger generations use YouTube and Instagram to explore career options.

Prioritize the why over the way, to lean into next-gen trends and apply them to EMS.

Jenkins provided an example. Taco Bell is “Lyft-izing” their front-line team experience through an app. If a Taco Bell employee finds their plans change, and they suddenly have an afternoon free, they can log in, see all the local restaurants in need of some extra help, and go in for 2-3 hours to help with the lunch rush. They benefit by working a few hours at a premium, and the end-users, the customers benefit from better customer service.

“The goal of the team experience is to create organizations where people want to, not need to show up for work,” he noted. We should not expect or want emerging generations to work as others have in the past; but equipping them for the new frontiers of EMS.

(Image/Courtesy of Ryan Jenkins)
(Image/Courtesy of Ryan Jenkins)

Additional resources on hiring, engaging and retaining emerging generations

Learn more about how to recruit, lead and serve Generation Z and millennials with these resources from EMS1:

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